There is not much public health concern as politically charged as the debate over whether the federal government should fund programs that provide hygienic needles to drug addicts to help prevent the spread of HIV. Clean needle exchange programs fall under the group of harm decrease policy an idea in which public policy aims to diminish the health and social consequences of drug use, mainly the transmission of HIV.
Any evaluation of the public health impact of needle exchange programs (NEPs) must begin with the recognition of the critical links between the epidemics of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and material abuse, and the relationship between HIV infection among injecting drug users (IDUs) and transmission to sexual partners and children. Except these phenomena are fully esteemed, the public health significance of HIV infection among IDUs cannot be fully realized, and the impact of measures to prevent HIV infection in this group will be miscalculated.
Approximation of the numbers of IDUs in the US range from 1.1 to 1.5 million. The societal costs of injection drug use include the costs of drug treatment, lost output, motor vehicle accidents, crime, and stolen property, and have been estimated at $58.3 billion per year. With the lifetime cost of remedy an HIV-infected person estimated at approximately $119,000. In addition, the number of IDU acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) cases rising during the 1980s, HIV among IDUs will exact a growing economic toll in the years to come.
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